In the words of a ‘70s cigarette ad, we’ve come a long way, baby.
That’s the take-away from a Sun Media interview with Premier Kathleen Wynne Wednesday.
And no, she didn’t mean we’re big girls now and can pick our own smokes, as the Virginia Slims ad once suggested.
She was talking about how being a woman and being openly gay, had no impact on the outcome of the election campaign.
She told Sun Queen’s Park Bureau Chief Antonella Artuso and me that in her meeting with Hillary Clinton this week, the former U.S. Secretary of State told her this province is ahead of the U.S. on that front.
“She said, ‘We haven’t gotten there in our country,’” Wynne told us.
“That’s true. We’re leading the world in terms of our inclusiveness in this country,” Wynne said. “I’m just so proud and privileged.”
Wynne said travelling around during the election campaign, she felt no hostility to her as a gay woman.
“There was none of that,” she said. “People may have had thoughts, but nobody said anything.”
Even in unscheduled stops where the locals weren’t Liberal supporters, she still felt welcome.
“They weren’t necessarily going to vote for us, but they were very warm and open,” she said.
“I don’t believe people in Ontario hold that kind of prejudice in their hearts and I think that this campaign has confirmed this,” she said.
On the political side, Wynne confirmed she’ll bring in the same budget Finance Minister Charles Sousa brought in May 1.
“I think we brought forward a budget that engages in people’s lives whether it’s in transit and infrastructure or the Ontario Pension Plan,” she said.
So was it an NDP budget?
“Those aren’t left wing. Those aren’t NDP ideas. Those are ideas that are good for the people of the province,” she told us.
Her cabinet won’t have the lean, pared-back look a Tory or New Democratic one would have had.
“I did not run on shrinking the cabinet to 16 members,” she said.
“I know both Andrea and Tim did that, but that’s not something I think is responsible,” she said.
Wynne talked about how she’d once been minister of municipal affairs and housing as well as the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs. That was a lot of responsibility, she said.
What we can take from that is that portfolios will be split to give as many of the veteran Liberals as possible a chance to shoot for cabinet.
She’s already warned the newbies that they won’t make the cut the first time around, but there will be new faces and she’ll shuffle responsibilities.
“You will see changes in terms of the faces in cabinet and the assignments,” she said.
She learned from experience that it’s best for newly elected MPPs to spend time learning how the place works through committees before they make it to cabinet.
“I think it’s a very healthy thing. I have told my caucus that. So stay tuned.”
Oddly, Wynne is more humble about her majority government than her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, was about his minority.
While McGuinty crowed he had a “major minority,” after the vote, Wynne said she’s hoping to work with the Opposition.
“I believe that in the spirit of governing the whole province, it’s very important we listen to Opposition members, that we take into account their concerns,” she said.
“My expectation of my government is if there’s a Opposition member who has a concern and they want to raise it with one of us, that they absolutely have the ability to do that.”
Well, time will tell. A majority government that listens to the Opposition?
We’ve come a long way, sure.
I’m just not sure we’ve come that far, baby.